Originally this was supposed to be an Easter bread. But then I didn't find time to bake during the Easter holidays, nor the week after that. We went to see our parents on Easter and it actually snowed on Easter Sunday!!! And last week I was busy with essays and project work for business school. I finally got around to making my favorite bread yesterday, so I just labelled it spring bread. It turned out like it wanted to make up for everything that has gone wrong lately: perfectly soft inside, perfect soft crust, and the aroma of almonds and raisins that have plumped up in Jamaica rum.
makes a huge loaf, half the recipe if desired
1 cube fresh active yeast (40g, ca. 1.5 oz)
3 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c WW flour
1/4 c sugar
1/2 cup vegan margerine, melted, tepid
1 1/2 c non-diary milk, tepid
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup raisins plumped up in 1/2 cup rum, rinsed with water to get rid of excess rum on surface
Warm approx 1/2 cup of the milk until handwarm. Sift the flour into a large bowl, and make a "puddle" in the middle. Pour the warm milk into this puddle and add a tblsp sugar and the yeast, breaking it into small chunks. Now stir in very little of the flour surrounding the puddle until it forms a soft dough with the yeast and the milk.
Dust some flour over it and let rest in a warm place until the starter dough starts bubbling and rising. Depending on how warm it is in your kitchen this will take anywhere from 10-30 minutes. I'm using A LOT of yeast for this bread because I enjoy the intensive yeast taste in baked goods. You can also make this bread with half the yeast or even less.
Melt the margerine and let cool again to tepid, warm the remaining milk to tepid, and add the liquids together with the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Knead until everything comes together in a soft dough. I am still using the mixer/kneader I inherited from my grandma. Must be from the sixties or something like that.
If after 10 minutes of kneading it is still too sticky knead in some extra flour. You don't want to use too much, though, the softer the dough now the better the results later. Let rest in a warm place until the dough has risen to twice its volume. Preheat the oven to 350F/160°C.
Punch down. Divide the dough into three parts and form thick strands with each. Braid the strands on a piece of parchment paper or a floured surface. Give it a nice wash with some soymilk. I just poured very little into my hand and tried to distribute it nicely on the surface without making a huge mess (I did make a huge mess though, but the results totally justify it :-)).
Transfer the lot onto a baking sheed and into your oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, enjoying the sweet aroma that will fill your kitchen. Total baking time will depend on your oven and on how big your loaf is. Mine was HUGE, smaller loaves might be done quicker.
Let cool and either break off chunks and dip into coffee/tea or slice it nicely and enjoy with margerine and homemade jam. Hmmmm, Easter has just begun for me :-)